There are parts of my body that go back 3000 years and I grow new ones every day…
What you see above is Kefir, or more properly Kefir granules. For the past 3000-4000 years this collection of organisms, a combination of bacteria and fungi, has been fermenting cow, mare, goat and sheep milk to produce a slightly fermented carbonated drink called kefir. The exact origin of the culture is not known but is thought to be in the Caucasus mountains of Southern Russia
and the surrounding small countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.
The beauty of this product is that it is a healthy probiotic similar to yogurt, the lactose is broken down in the fermenting process thus allowing lactose intolerant individuals to drink it, and most importantly there is no refrigeration needed for the growth or storage up to 30 days.
When I first learned to speak Russian 10 years ago I was not keen on drinking bubbly, fermented milk but after being there in Belarus and Russia my taste buds latched on to this drink.
Now what does this have to do with my ride you say?
Every day in the Van and Trailer I ferment 12 ounces of this dairy product for my evening meal. I make it in a sealed container away from other foods and have it wrapped in a traveling ice bag sans ice to minimize the odor for others. My biggest problem has been getting fresh milk but I have found powdered milk works just as well…which gets me to today.
After sleeping late I went grocery shopping with another rider to restock my foods.
We leave tomorrow towards North Dakota and Montana where sometimes grocery stores are hard to find. We were directed to a Health Food Grocer by the 20 year old college students who run this summer dorm only to find exorbitant prices, and for me, no powdered milk. Hopping back on the Metro we headed to a Target just off Campus where I was able to find most of my needs, except…powdered milk.
”Who uses powdered milk?” and then blank stares from more college student working there.
I returned to the dorm and decided to head into the Somalian part of Minneapolis to take pictures, try ethnic food, and look for powdered milk.
Much of the world lives without refrigeration so I thought maybe Somalian grocers would carry this product.
As I entered an area where my son told me not to go…he used to live here…I stopped at a small restaurant with all menus in Arabic. I wandered inside to 50 stares from very dark skinned Somalians eating from large plates with their hands. A young boy of maybe 14 approached and asked if I wanted to eat. I pointed to a picture of something that looked good, a meat dish, rice, pita bread, and a goulash with beans.
“ No goat today! You want chicken instead?”
“No goat today! You come back tomorrow! We kill goat tonight!”
Deja vu !!!
“No, No Thank you” and I left hoping I had saved the goat.
I walked down the street deeper into the neighborhood wanting to take pictures of the people but fearing it might not be allowed. Instead I took pictures of their homes.
Wandering on I found a Somalian grocer and walked in. Everything was in Arabic and again 50 stares from very dark skinned brightly dressed hajib covered women and a few men. On an isle I found my favorite, dates, and low and behold, powdered milk…from Nestle…in Arabic…
Up front I went to pay and I noticed a large plastic box with a brown slab of something for sale.
Never the shy one under such circumstances I asked “ What’s that?”
He answered something in Somalian or Arabic or Something Else and just looked at me as if to say “ Don’t you understand?”
I just stood there not sure how to respond to his slightly hostile glare.
Finally he cut off a small piece for me to taste…my taste buds said ”sweet candied pumpkin gummy something”…
“ How do you eat it”….why not press my luck.
““Bread. You know salami? This instead?”
“I’ll take some.”
He turned to say something to another man in the same unfamiliar language, got a piece of bread and cut me a slab…and with his bare hands picked up the hunk and put it in a plastic bag.
Alarm bells went off in my head…
“ I bet he just told that guy I’d be blowing from both ends in about 24 hours”.
I decided it was worth paying three dollars for the mystery treat to get out of there with my dates and powdered milk but also pondered that I had best not eat that sweet pumpkin meat.
As I walked back to the dorm I thought of the kefir probiotics growing inside my body and decided not to risk a Somalian terrorist attack on my gut…
Through the neighborhood I walked , saw the same flowers,
same homes…well some were different…
and wondered at these refuges moving here from the war torn region in the Middle East and Horn of Africa.
There is almost no integration in this part of Minneapolis, in fact it is called little Mogadishu by the surrounding population. The police are trying to work with the local communities to cut down indigenous crime but there is little trust by the immigrants towards police in this new strange local. In fact there is little trust between their dark native skins and whites.
Yet today at breakfast I sat in a cafe run by old Hippies drinking cappuccino and eating an chocolate muffin when walked in a brightly dressed Somalian woman with hijab in place. She ordered an espresso, drank it at the bar, paid, said ““Thank you” and walked out…like anyone else…
Who knows? 20 years from now I may return here and and find that Kefir and “Pumpkin Sweet Gummy Something” mix…without a gut blow out…and that the hajib has been replaced by a Twins Baseball cap…
That is the nature of the Great Melting Pot Of America…
And regardless of what one thinks of that Melting Pot let it be said that the only place I could find my powdered milk for my Kefir was in a Somalian Grocery store deep in the the heart of Little Mogadishu…
These blogs are written sometimes under extreme conditions.
I was wearing a bathing suit while my clothes were being washed…I may be brave enough to explore Little Mogadishu but not brave enough to sit in the buff in a Freshman Dorm…